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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Re: Richard II
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2608  Thursday, 15 November 2001

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Nov 2001 13:12:38 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2602 Re: Richard II 4.1.236-41

[2]     From:   Dan Smith <
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        Date:   Thursday, 15 Nov 2001 13:27:56 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2602 Re: Richard II 4.1.236-41


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Nov 2001 13:12:38 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.2602 Re: Richard II 4.1.236-41
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2602 Re: Richard II 4.1.236-41

> Why is this so? One explanation is that Bolinbroke,
> unlike Richard, draws
> strength and resolve from the land of England.
> Whereas Richard thinks
> that HE grants favors to England's land (3.2.8-11),
> Bolingbroke feels
> that only England's land can sustain him:
>
>         Then England's ground, farewell. Sweet soil,
> adieu.
>         My mother and my nurse, that bears me yet!
>
> (1.3.306-307)
>
> Richard has no where to "ground" himself, so to
> speak, and thus can only
> be a player king that falls apart whenever adversity
> strikes.
> Bolingbroke, on the other hand, can withstand
> adversity because he is
> rooted in England's very soil.

It's interesting to view this earth concept from many perspectives, and
not only because Shakespeare features very cryptic and metaphorical
gardeners in the play. In III.ii., the scene I would argue that we begin
to feel rumblings of sympathy for Richard even as he pities himself,
upon his return from Ireland, Richard says the following:

Dear earth, I do salute thee with my hand,
Though rebels wound thee with their horses' hoofs.
As a long-parted mother with her child
Plays fondly with her tears, and smiles in meeting,
So, weeping, smiling, greet I thee my earth,
And do thee favours with my royal hands.
Feed not thy sovereign's foe, my gentle earth.
Nor with thy sweets comfort his ravenous sense...

and so on. Richard appropriates his land for his own defense and even
makes himself into a sort of gardener and caretaker of that land,
smiling on it like the sun and weeping onto it like the clouds. As Ed
Taft pointed out, he bequeaths favors. But he also realizes in the same
scene that he cannot command the earth into obeying his divine right.
Later in the same scene, his mood and outlook changes drastically:

Let's talk of graves, of worms and epitaphs,
Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow in the bosom of the earth.
Let's choose executors and talk of wills -
And yet not so, for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives, and all are Bolingbroke's;
And nothing can we call our own but death,
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground,
And tell sad stories of the death of kings...

The land is a character in this play, and as John of Gaunt pronounced
"this earth, this realm, this England" to be so many things, he also
predicted its corruption by the future civil wars. As the play moves on,
Richard becomes rooted in that soil, but only buried in it. His blood
pollutes the purity of that land for almost 100 years.

God, I love this play. Why isn't it performed more often?

Brian Willis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dan Smith <
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Date:           Thursday, 15 Nov 2001 13:27:56 -0000
Subject: 12.2602 Re: Richard II 4.1.236-41
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2602 Re: Richard II 4.1.236-41

The difference between someone playing a role and someone who fills it
is intriguing.  It made me wonder if it followed from Shakespeare musing
about the difference between actors who give an empty show of playing a
role and those who are convincing.  Further, It made me think about
other characters that might have the same failing.

Malvolio is ridiculed and held in contempt because he is seen to
"Practice behaviour to his own shadow"  (Maria Act II Sc.iv).  His
actions are not moved by anything substantial (he is a shadow of a
proper man) and this learning behaviour to impress others is a symptom
of his self-love.  Perhaps Richard also suffers from Malvolio's other
weakness, his self-love causes him to reason that he is "...so crammed,
as he thinks, with excellences, that it is his ground of faith that all
that look on him love him; and on that vice in him will my revenge find
notable cause to work."  (Maria Act II Sc.iii).

Edmund Taft's reference to Oklahoma reminds me of the film Excalibur
where it is a central idea that "The land and the king are one", and the
health of the one depends on the other.

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